Julian Alaphilippe‘s aggressive riding during stage 3 at Paris-Nice on Wednesday snapped the whip that cracked the peloton on the way to Châtel-Guyon, but the Frenchman came up just short of climbing onto the general classification podium as Astana’s Luis Leon Sanchez finished second on the stage and took the overall lead.
The Quick-Step Floors rider attacked at the bottom of the final cat 3 climb on the finishing circuit, dropping everyone from the front group save for Lotto Soudal’s Tim Wellens, who had to fight mightily but finally latched onto the Frenchman’s wheel. Behind the lead pair, the acceleration took its toll on the peloton, which had only recently caught the lone survivor of the day’s main breakaway, and the main bunch was soon down to just 20 riders.
Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang, who lost more than a minute in a crash during stage 1 and was out of the GC running, was able to bridge to the leaders to form a new group of three. The trio made it to the KOM, but they were soon caught by Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) and Ion Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida), and then in turn by the rest of the main bunch.
“The team rode full gas once we approached the final 30 kilometers, and I must thank them for their amazing work,” Alaphilippe said in a statement released by the team. “I attacked on the climb because I had hoped to make the difference, which I did, but the others managed to come back.”
From there, Sanchez sneaked away with Remy di Gregorio (Delko Marseille Provence), and then eventual stage winner Johnathan HIvert (Direct Energie) caught on to form the successful final move.
“When the three went away, I tried to close the gap, but nobody wanted to help,” Alaphilippe said.
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